Joel Reichenberger: Lessons learned

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Joel Reichenberger

Steamboat Pilot & Today sports reporter and photographer Joel Reichenberger can be reached at 871-4253 or jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Joel here.

— As the Pilot & Today’s outdoors reporter, this is kind of an embarrassing story to tell.

Heck, as a Steamboat Springs resident of well more than two years now, this is an embarrassing story to tell.

Nevertheless.

This week, I uncovered elements of the mountain biking trails on Howelsen Hill and Emerald Mountain that I didn’t know existed. This surprised me because I considered myself pretty well acquainted with Steamboat’s most popular summer hangout for locals. I spend seemingly endless hours on or near the slopes of Howelsen some weeks, covering sporting events like softball and volleyball tournaments at its base and running and bicycling races on the trails above.

I’m a regular in the winter, as well, tracking down the latest, greatest athlete for a feature or covering any of the multitude of events on the ski jumps and groomed trails.

My mountain biking exploits have been well documented here. I’m still a sporadic rider at best. I rode the Zig Zag trail to the top of the gondola at the Steamboat Ski Area three times in 10 days in June and early July and have been back only once since. I went an entire week in July without moving my SUV from its parking spot, and an entire week in August without moving my bike from its rack.

I’ve dabbled on Howelsen, but never really ridden it. I’d even been told of some easy trails there but shied away after hiking portions of them for photo assignments.

The Bluffs Trail, for instance, didn’t seem easy at all when I made my way across the first portion of it earlier this summer while covering a Town Challenge race.

The Bluffs Trail starts beside and quickly climbs above the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena. I hiked through with my camera, looking for a great place to shoot a race earlier this summer. I found it. If you hike a little ways there’s a perfect spot. The riders come popping around this corner and if you set things up right, they’ll be in the lower right portion of the frame.

So, I stopped hiking there, less than a half mile from the rodeo grounds and after a fair number of steep and challenging rollers. I thought it was a nice trail, but not easy.

Earlier this week, I finally went around that corner. Turns out there’s a massive, wide, easy, fun meadow there. I know — who knew, right?

The Bluffs Trail is great. It’s not difficult at all. There are a few semi-steep sections, but nothing I couldn’t handle with a few well-placed grunts and groans. There are great, wide switchbacks that reduce Howelsen’s formidable slopes to an easy ride. There’s even fun and not-too-steep downhills that lead back to the base.

It’s exactly the kind of trail a beginning/out-of-shape mountain biker should feast on, and it’s been there all the time I’ve struggled and sweat up difficult climbs elsewhere.

There’s probably a number of lessons here: Take trail advice from people who are in the know. Keep your mind and your options open, and never stop exploring, even when you think you already know what’s around the corner.

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